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We have all, at some point, take the decision to make important changes in our lives.  It may be a physical change, a lifestyle change, taking on a physical challenge or a new business venture; but how many people really understand what is truly required, not only see the new change through but make it truly successful, rewarding and meaningful?

Ambition, passion, drive and determination are all key traits needed in order to succeed in any change.  However, first you must determine why you want to change.  Secondly, you must have the desire, determination and motivation to see through the good and the bad times and thirdly you must have passion in what you are trying to achieve.  You will never succeed unless you possess these vital characteristics.

Now if it were as simple as this to put into practice, then everyone would be lean, healthy and successful, living the lives that they envisaged.  Unfortunately, however, for every dream, goal and wish which is successful, there are hundreds of incidents, scenarios and people just waiting to trip you up and bring your ambition for change crashing to a halt.

Habit: A Settled or Regular Tendency or Practice; Especially One Which is Hard to Give Up.

Habits

Or should we say negative habits, are the single most destructive form of detractor when looking to make any change.  They are, as the definition suggests, a series of tendencies which are hard to give up.  Ask anyone who is or has been overweight, engaged in regular binge drinking, smoking, taking drugs or in fact any self-destructive practice, over a long period of time.  They will all testify to the corrosive nature of their habit and the difficulty involved in breaking them.

Cycling of Bad Habits

So, why are habits so hard to break?   Why do we often seem to find our way back to where we started?  Well, in fact there are many hurdles to contend with.  Some are intrinsic; the ongoing battle with your own subconscious not to go back to poor habits once you have started your journey to change.  Some are extrinsic; family, friends, social groups and mass media can be just as destructive to your journey.

Intrinsic Factors

Our brain is the most powerful and complex system or computer on our planet.  It controls our thoughts, everything we do, say, feel, think and dream.  It dictates sleep patterns, hormonal output, nervous system recruitment, temperature control and, you guessed it…habits.

The subconscious brain has the ability to store recognise and repeat the things you practice on a daily basis from eating to sleeping, work practices, mood and everything in between.  Our subconscious thoughts are stronger than our conscious thoughts; they are the operating system to our computer.  The problem being is that when our subconscious thoughts are down beat, pessimistic and negative to change and they become repetitive, you start a cycle of self-destructive habits.  In effect, negativity in all its forms, denies our very own positive conscious desire for change.  The negative cycle goes on.

Negative intrinsic factors are often driven by a change in the brain’s chemistry; sugar, alcohol, nicotine, poor daily nutrition and sporadic eating patterns, are all responsible.

Take sugar for example.  Sugar, or any sugar substitute, has been confirmed in many studies as being just as addictive and poisonous to our bodies as cocaine and heroine.  It stimulates the pleasure centre in our brain (Nucleus Accumbens for the science orientated!) to release dopamine, giving you the feeling of pleasure.  The more often you eat sugar, the weaker the signal becomes, so you consume even more in order to get the same pleasure response.  Excessive stimulation of this pleasure centre means you crave even more to get the same pleasurable hit.  This circular dependency makes it an even harder habit to break, eventually leading to addiction and can cause depression.

Sugar is added to virtually everything in our packaged, tinned and processed foods, whether you want to face up to it or not.  Look at the labels of most bread, cereals, baked beans, tomato soup, fat-free ranges and some weight loss shakes, you may be surprised by their content.  It’s no surprise then that the vast majority of our population is unconsciously addicted to sugar.   If your goal is weight loss and you’re including these foods in your diet, you will most certainly fail in your goal.  Feelings of unhappiness, hopelessness and inadequacy creep in and negative self-belief returns.

Extrinsic Factors

Family, friends, work colleagues, TV, radio and supermarkets are just some of the outside influences which have a real impact on your motivation for change.

Supermarkets know us better than we know ourselves.  Next time you go grocery shopping be aware of the offers and treats strategically placed throughout the store.  At the end of each isle we are often bombarded with sugary delights at knocked down prices.  At the checkout and the surrounding areas there is confectionary on sale while you wait to be served.  This is no coincidence; it’s all beautifully designed to pull you in.  In fact quite recently I was standing in a supermarket isle and everywhere I looked there was a sugar offensive.  Right in front of me was an enticing array of “snacking” biscuits.  If your resolve is a little shaky you can easily be lead to cheat on your diet.  Feelings of failure and worthlessness start to overflow and the negative cycle reappears.

Discouraging comments from close friends and family can make you angry, sad and frustrated. These feelings all have a negative impact subconsciously and can derail your efforts to change. Think about it?  Do you know anyone who is constantly pessimistic?  Do they or have they ever achieved anything in life that is meaningful, or are they the type of person who says constantly ” I wish I could”, “it’s impossible”, “if only”, “that’s silly” and starts a sentence with “but”?  Ask yourself, do these people support and drive you in your ambition?

On the whole, our society doesn’t promote positive intrinsic or extrinsic behaviour.  We are pre-programmed from childhood to focus on the things we are not good at and tend to miss and ignore the many things we are good at and have achieved.  Fast forward then to adulthood.

Think about the boss who is outwardly confident but inwardly scared as hell they may get found out they are rubbish at their job!  These people “dumb down” your ability, creativity and undermine your confidence with caustic comments designed to put you on the back foot.

So, we start to doubt ourselves again, thoughts of “I should have done better” and “I’m not good enough” creep in and the cycle of self-negativity returns.

All these negative intrinsic and extrinsic factors are reinforced by our own negative conscious thoughts which affect the subconscious and we are all very good at repeating these daily.  The good news is that you can change all these self-defeating behaviours and build positive habits.

 “We see things not as they are but as we are!”

Let’s Break this Self-Negative Cycle and Create Positive, Forward-Thinking, Rewarding Habits

Change Your Inner Chat to” I Can, I Will”

Re-booting the subconscious starts with a conscious decision to change it.  We can change the subconscious cycle of self-negative beliefs and chat back through positive remodeling of our conscious thoughts.  Flipping the switch to up-beat, optimistic, positive thoughts and feelings on a day-to-day basis can start a cycle of self-affirmation and forward action.  In effect, positivity in all its forms influences our subconscious mind and actions.

Put out the Trash

Your habits can be initiated by objects around the house or working environment.  Keeping sugary foods and drinks at home or constantly passing the chocolate vending machine on the way to the printer can eventually break your resolve, make you give in and the cycle of negative habits will start again.   Get rid of anything which may cause you to waiver from your goal.  Out of sight, out of mind works very well!

Throw the Negative People out with the Trash

Let’s take the Friday feel-good work colleague, pastry pusher, the family member who says “do you think that’s a good idea?” or the mate who says “Oh that sounds a bit over the top!” These comments and people are all negative detractors; but they don’t mean to be.  Become conscious of these people and their habits and you can turn any negative subconscious emotions and thoughts into positive ones.

Switch off Jeremy Kyle, Eastenders and Make a Motivational Play List

Watching depressing, mind-numbing TV and listening to down-beat ballads all the time is a bit like Chinese water torture.  After a while it will quite literally bore a hole in your positivity.  We know that positive emotions can make you feel up-beat and motivated; music is very emotive.  Creating an awe-inspiring play list on your IPod (other Mp3 players are available) and then blaring it out when we feel down can raise your confidence and optimism levels right through the roof.

Playing it on the way to the gym and during your workout can inspire you to work harder, releasing more happy endorphins, increasing your feelings of wellness and real achievement.

Read, Follow and Listen

A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.  A lot of knowledge can be very powerful!  The more books you read and the more you follow professionals in their field on their social network pages on the subject of your ambition, the more you start to learn, understand and put into practice the skills which will help you achieve your goals.  If you travel a lot, downloading high quality audio books are a great way to learn on the move.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Positive people breed positive actions.  Fact!  All my friends exhibit one clear trait – ambition. Positive people persist when things look glum, see opportunity to learn from failure, hold themselves with confidence but not arrogance and smile a lot.  Surround yourself with these kinds of people and you will achieve greatness.

Plan Your Day, Weekly Nutrition, Workout and Record It

Forward planning for social events, meetings, training, keeping a food, workout or progress diary, works very well in the motivation stakes.  It shows you where you’ve come from, if you have hit a plateau or stalled in your quest for change; identifies what you need to work on and highlights the progress you have made.  All of this information is crucial to continued change and success.

Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep deprivation has serious consequences on how we perform.  Memory, planning, timing and speech are all affected, making mental tasks tougher, plays havoc with our mood, emotions and thus how we view ourselves positively on a daily basis.  Getting enough sleep can also regulate our appetite hormones – leptin and ghrelin.  Leptin signals our brain when we are full and ghrelin stimulates appetite.  When you are sleep-deprived, Leptin levels are suppressed which means the signal that says you are full is weak and ghrelin levels rise, stimulating appetite, making you crave more food and breaking your resolve.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests we get between 7 and 9 hours a night.  Interventions to improve sleep patterns are:  ensure your bedroom and bed clothes are clean and smell fresh, make sure your curtains and blinds block out light, so it’s as dark as a bat cave, switch off all electrical equipment.  If you use a mobile phone as an alarm clock, set it and place it away from your bed.  The electro-magnetic field from most devices can heighten you, making it difficult for you to drop off.  Take magnesium as this “anti-stress” mineral has a calming effect on the nervous system and helps your muscles relax.

With Positive Support And Action, Breaking Any Habit Can Be Easy.  It All Comes Back To Those Four Character Traits You Need To Succeed.

AMBITION, PASSION, DRIVE and DETERMINATION

Co-written by Matt Warner and Simon de Burgh

Simon de Burgh is the 2 X winner of “Gym Based Personal Trainer of The Year 2011 & 2012″ at The National Fitness Awards and a Physique Elite DTP Specialist.  Simon has been in the sports and fitness industry for over 16 years and trains clients to transform their bodies and coaches long distance athletes, creator of LDST (Long Distance Strength Training System), writes and co-writes with other Personal Trainers.

Matt Warner is a Personal Trainer – DTP Transformation Specialist – Sports massage therapist and founder of @CRE8WHATYOUWANT. Specialising in areas of strength training, mental preparation and sports massage allows Matt to bring together each piece of the performance puzzle.  He works mainly with athletes from junior level up to world championship level in many disciplines, as well as clients looking for body re-composition and ensures that they gain all of the attributes needed to reach their physical and psychological potential. 

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OK, in Body Chemistry Part I we touched on blood sugar regulation but what about normalising your sex hormones!?

Do you really need to and can you go this far?  Well, yes you can, yes you do and yes you should!

Normalising Sex Hormones Testosterone and Oestrogen

Let’s make this clear you can’t over produce natural levels of the sex hormones testosterone or oestrogen but you can unbalance them through poor diet and exercise programming.  What we really want to achieve through good nutrition and training is to normalise them.

What is Testosterone and Why is it Important?

Testosterone is an essential hormone for both men and women.  It helps maintain lean muscle mass, which increases metabolic rate thereby helping to decrease body fat and produce feelings of confidence and wellness.  Testosterone is produced in the testes in men and in the ovaries in women. It’s important for women to understand that they can only naturally produce about one tenth of the amount of testosterone as a man, which is why it’s impossible for them to BULK like a body-builder.

Physical inactivity, high body fat percentage, consuming highly refined, processed foods, trans-fats, fake sugars and high levels of saturated fat will lower testosterone production and increase oestrogen. Age is also a factor – sex hormone production will decrease as you age, typically in males in their 40’s and in females as they approach the menopause.

Oestrogen and Progesterone: The Primary Female Sex Hormones

Oestrogen is produced in the ovaries in women.  Progesterone is also produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands and is a pre-cursor (building block) for other hormones, particularly testosterone.  It will also enhance hormonal balance.

When the body has too much oestrogen “oestrogen dominance” and not enough progesterone, it becomes unbalanced, which can lead to increased body fat, un-wanted weight gain and increased risks of diabetes and heart disease.  Excess fat tissue, particularly in the abdominal area, will over produce oestrogen.  This over-production can then in turn produce more fatty tissue, which will cause an increased snowballing effect to the body fat percentage.

Oestrogen dominance is not just localised to women; it’s often seen in men due to low testosterone levels as well as a high oestrogen intake from external environmental sources such as processed red meat, trans-fats, high sugar, refined foods and excessive alcohol consumption.

Tips to Normalize Testosterone and Oestrogen Production

1.       Reduce body fat percentage and increase lean muscle tissue.

2.       Perform compound weight-lifting movements.

Heavy weight training will increase testosterone production and growth hormone production released from the pituitary gland, which will stimulate protein synthesis (lean muscle gain).

3.       Perform high intensity, interval training and reduce long duration exercise.

This stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroxin thereby increasing metabolism, testosterone production and reduces cortisol production, a catabolic hormone which breaks down muscle.

4.       Get ample sleep.

Sleep is the body’s time to recover and repair.  It’s the most important time for growth
hormone and testosterone production.  It will also reduce the production of cortisol.

5.       Eat a diet high in lean quality protein.

Good examples are grass-fed beef, organic chicken, turkey, freshwater fish, free range eggs.

6.       Cut out refined sugar, fruit sugar “fructose” and foods high on the Glycaemic index.

7.       Remove refined and processed foods such as bran flakes and other processed cereals, white
bread and white rice.

8.       Reduce cellular stress and cortisol production by taking zinc, magnesium and vitamin
supplements.

9.       Cut out trans-fats.  This will decrease cellular stress, inflammation and cortisol production.

10.     Consume EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids) which play an important role in cell health and normal
hormone production.  Good examples are flaxseed, raw almonds, walnuts, avocado and
freshwater salmon.  Always cook with omega-3 oils such as coconut oil and “Good Hemp” oil.

11.     Limit saturated fat to decrease cellular inflammation and cortisol production.  Good examples
are grass-fed red meat, organic butter and whole milk products.

12.     Consume plant foods high in fibre to reduce inflammation and cortisol production such as
barley, brown rice, quinoa, legumes, beans and organic oats.

13.     Consume plenty of organic, fresh vegetables rich in antioxidants.  Good choices include
vibrant colours and dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach, watercress, sweet potatoes,
beetroot, bell peppers, broccoli, onions and berries.

14.     Take magnesium to reduce cellular stress and calm the nervous system.  This will improve
sleep, energy levels, mood, brain function, testosterone production, protein synthesis,
calcium absorption and is involved with metabolising vitamin D.

15.     Take zinc to boost your immune system, energy levels and mood.  Zinc is a powerful
antioxidant and is required for proper hormonal function.

16.     Take vitamin D which raises testosterone levels; this in turn can lead to greater lean muscle
gain, increased metabolic rate and aid in body fat reduction.  Vitamin D can improve mood,
immune function and physical performance.

“Have you noticed the crossovers from the 13 tips to regulate your blood sugar levels and the tips to balance your sex hormones?”

Eating good quality, real, whole foods is not tough or expensive.  It does require you to think ahead and plan though.  Start cooking real food for convenience, instead of buying refined processed, pre-packaged foods.  Be instrumental with the ingredients you put into your meals, take control of your food and you take control of your body and how it looks.

Top Tip:

Buy your groceries online.  Why?  Because the online apps are (NOW) very good but more importantly you have to make a list so you only buy what you need and you don’t over spend.  This is because you don’t start heading down the isles you shouldn’t and you aren’t drawn into the “Buy One Get One Free” on food you didn’t want. The good news is that you can save your grocery list online, simple!

“Remember Eat & Drink Real Food”

ONE MORE TIME!

When you control what kind of foods you eat and perform the correct exercise protocols, you have the power over your long-term health; body fat levels, energy, cravings, lean muscle tissue, reduction of disease, stress, improved immunity, sleeping patterns, mood, mental health, self-esteem – feelings of wellness create a more positive attitude – look more toned, feel great on the inside and look fitter, younger, sexier or “hench” on the outside!

Co written by Dave Fuge http://www.davefuge.com http://www.corephysique.com

and Simon de Burgh http://www.simondeburghpt.com. http://www.newwavefitness.co.uk

References:

T Nation.com

Body Building.com

Webmd.com

http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com

http://www.livestrong.com

Coffee

Coffee

This is tough article to write because I love coffee. I make my own every day, grind it from real beans and brew it in a warmed single cup cafétiere. Granulated coffee from a jar is NOT coffee! That to me is sacrilege to real coffee beans and at no time should or would ever pass my lips. For a long time it’s been a ritual in the morning. I loved the warm intoxicating smell of a freshly poured cup, always heating my milk before adding it in and sometimes I added a little cinnamon, perfect! Sadly though it seems coffee really doesn’t like me anymore! I am to blame, I over did it, nay abused it, drank way too much and it bit back.

Moderate consumption of coffee can be beneficial in speeding up your metabolism and increasing mental focus and concentration. Perfect just before a workout and for anyone aiming to keep their body fat levels low and training intensity high. Moderate meaning two to three cups a day. My error was to consume almost twice as much as this and if I’m really honest, the way I made it, three times as much.

As a competing Body Builder and Adventure Racer, I train hard with weights, work on high end HIIT cardio, eat a very healthy, focused diet, so that I can gain lean muscle and keep my body fat low. I have cut a lot of foods out of my diet to achieve this and coffee was my one thing which I knew I could enjoy and wouldn’t increase my body fat percentage. Or so I thought.

Recently, however, I seem to be struggling to lose body fat around my lower abdominal area. I went to see a very good friend, Nicky Joyce, who performed an in depth Bio Signature/Hormonal Profiling test. We examined my training and nutrition, all of which seemed to be spot on. The results came back as low body fat percentage on every tested site, except my lower abdomen and sacroiliac joint site. Further discussion revealed that what could seriously be halting my body fat reduction was over consumption of coffee/caffeine and possibly sleep deprivation.

Cortisol is a natural stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands. One cup of coffee increases the amount of cortisol made and released. Over consumption of coffee/caffeine stimulates your CNS (Central Nervous System) causing cellular stress and tension. Add serious weight training to the mix which hammers your CNS causing further cellular stress and puts an even greater demand on the adrenal glands, eventually leaving them depleted and unable to function properly. It’s this cumulative stress and over production of cortisol which signals the body to start storing body fat.

Cortisol diverts blood glucose to the muscles, unused energy gets stored as fat specifically round the belly and just above the sacroiliac joint because these regions have four times as many receptors for cortisol. But it doesn’t end there!

Heavy coffee drinkers or high caffeine consumption can affect sleep patterns causing sleep deprivation. Sleep is an important regulator of metabolism and appetite. Leptin and Ghrelin are appetite hormones. Leptin regulates hunger, appetite and metabolism and tells the brain (hypothalamus) when you have had enough. Ghrelin’s job is to tell the brain when you are hungry. Sleep deprivation reduces Leptin and increases Ghrelin. High Ghrelin production stresses the cells of the body even further, stimulating the adrenal gland to produce abnormal levels of cortisol, the effects of which can be prolonged for several days. Abnormal levels of cortisol have been proven to be catabolic (tissue breakdown) on muscle fibres. Less muscle means reduced metabolic activity and possibly greater body fat gain.

Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans

TAKE AWAY FACT: Over consumption of coffee/caffeine combined with sleep deprivation can create a cortisol snowballing effect, which in turn can increase belly fat.

On a subconscious level I knew this all along. My body was telling me ages ago that it didn’t like coffee in the amounts I was consuming. I ignored it because I was on a strict diet running up to my first competition and coffee was my only naughty vice.

Now that I’m consciously aware of my body’s rejection of coffee I have cut it out completely and all forms of caffeine so that I can normalise my adrenal function. I have opted not to drink decaffeinated coffee largely because of the 400 chemicals (or more)  used in the decaffeinating process.

There are natural supplements which you can take to help de-stress the body.  Below are some recommendations. With the exception of Milk Thistle I’d suggest cycling these monthly so your body doesn’t build up a resistance to them.

Milk Thistle:

Milk thistle is not known to act on your adrenal glands directly, but by removing or deactivating toxins from your liver it allows the liver to function more efficiently as a filter and remove compounds from your bloodstream which are causing cellular stress within your body, taking the pressure off your adrenal glands.

Milk Thistle

Valerian:

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a popular herb to treat sleep disorders which relate to stress. Valerian may calm the nerves, promote sleep and enhance adrenal health.

Valerian

Valerian

Rhodiola:

Rhodiola Rosea Stress Relief (THR), an extract from the rhizome and roots of the Rhodiola Rosea herb, has also been shown to help with mild anxiety associated with stress, based on traditional use.

Rhodiola

Rhodiola

Magnesium:

Magnesium’s benefits can include reduced symptoms from conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia. Magnesium may also provide protection from a number of chronic diseases, especially those associated with aging and stress.

Magnesium

Magnesium can also be found naturally in spinach, kale and watercress.

Magnesium can also be found naturally in spinach, kale and watercress.

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